I sit by the window and don't speak. She has said this before, each time I ask her the question I am not allowed to ask. I can't even find the reason I still bring up the subject, but I do all the same.
"…too dangerous. We must protect the people, don't you see? They are only safe while you are with me. You understand don't you?"
I don't move to agree with her.
I hear something snap, and rise, spinning around quickly to face her.
She is holding a tiny wood carving of a goose. Its neck is shattered to splinters, its wings still raised to fly. I hold back the gasp of horror pulsating in my throat. She drops the broken thing. Stepping closer to me, the heel of her shoe crushes it carelessly.
She looks down at me, eyes burning with absolutism. "You know I do this for you. Aren't you happy here? Be grateful for all I have given you. That question hurts me. Do you understand?" Her voice is soft, but it makes me shake.
She sighs. "It's for your own good that you stay inside. I promised your father I would care for you." She reaches to me, clasping her hands around my neck and kissing me at my temple.
"Thank you." My voice quivers, and I swallow hard.
"Get dressed for dinner. We eat at the end of the hour." She straightens and turns with a sweep of cloth and beautiful crimson hair, locking the door shut to protect me.
I pick up the goose and begin to cry. Cradling it in my hands, I sink onto the stool by the window. I have hurt her again. Just as I have hurt my friend, killed him. I can think of no way to heal him, his neck destroyed as it is.
The sky has such color, bright and pure. Clouds sleep softly on the blue mattress, with subtle colors of their own.
My own mattress is a burgundy. I hate to wake up in the early mornings and see the bitter of it beneath me. Everything is the same sour shade. The bed-drapes and curtains and carpet and chairs—all that ugly, mean color. I want to know those skies and forget this room.
But she tells me I cannot, and I know she is right. If I were to hurt someone with my evil, I should not let myself know anything again.
Sometimes I can feel my evil inside me, growing. It hurts like the burgundy color. At those times, I sit and look out the window and pretend I am as good and fresh as that sky.
I put the wooden pieces by its brothers. They have already begun to stir, as they always do when she is gone. Walking over to the dead one, they nudge him with their beaks and look at me in sadness. I feel a burning hate as I watch them morn the friend whose death is my fault. I will not ask that question again. The evil cannot take over again.
"I am so sorry." I whisper to them. Tears snake down my face, fall from my chin to the floor.
She would not like to see me cry. Boys are not meant to cry, she says. I know that this crying must be a part of the evil inside me. This thought only makes me want to cry more, to let it control me until I am something else entirely.
I walk to the small mirror on the wall, and will my eyes to end their redness. There is enough red in this room already. And she would not like to see them red.
I remember that dinner is to start soon. I dress quickly, into a sweater with holes sewn in the back to accommodate me and black trousers. I pat my dark hair down flat on top of my head, and hear the latch unlocking. My goose friends recognize the sound as well. Quickly, they fly to their places on my desk and sit motionless.
She strides in swiftly, smiling at me. Sometimes, I think she must be the most beautiful person on earth. Willowy, with bright lips and creamy skin. She reminds me of the fireplace in my room when it is alight with a thousand colors.
"I see you've combed your hair. Lovely. Thank you, Tristan." Her voice is so soft and kind, I feel almost faint. She says my name like I am something to be coveted. I hate that I am wicked, that I can never be truly good like her. "Come, then, and we will eat."
I follow her flaming hair down the steep, winding steps of my stone staircase.
Turning swiftly around a corner, a small maid bumps into her swiftly. She stops, cheeks pink like evening skies, head bowed low. "I'm terribly sorry, mistress." Her lips pucker slightly, release, face shifting with silent nerves. But it is her neck that fascinates me. Pale and slender, with a thousand freckles splayed across it like stars.
My lady smiles, looks her straight in the face. "It's nothing. Continue on."
And the maid rushes off, skirts twisting and spinning awkwardly. I watch her go.
She turns to me, eyes sharp and staring, brows crooked with disapproval. "She was very pretty, wasn't she, Tristan?"
She looks amused, but her eyes, so narrow, are frozen.
"I hadn't noticed." My voice shakes, and I pat quickly at my throat to calm it.
"I know you." She whispers this, leaning in close and cupping my cheek as if to kiss me. "Don't ever lie to me." The grip tightens and I cry out, not from pain, but surprise. Her face is vacant, still like an empty fireplace.
"I-I'm sorry," I manage to stutter. "I didn't mean anything by it."
Her face softens, hands becoming warm and pliable, sliding down to rest on my collarbone. "I know. But we must protect her from you. This evil in you," she straightens, "is contagious."
She leads me farther from my room, into the room with tall ceilings where we dine. Quickly stopping a servant rushing about, she whispers to him. He looks surprised, glances at me, and nods stiffly. He rushes off again, and we are left alone as always.